On July 27, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam announced that the Commonwealth will commit $935.6 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and accelerate critical upgrades to the Virginia Employment Commission. The Governor’s plan will put $862 million back into Virginia’s unemployment insurance trust fund, preventing tax increases on businesses and ensuring that employers are not penalized for layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Virginia will also invest $73.6 million to fast-track ongoing modernization efforts at the Virginia Employment Commission, including $37.4 million to boost call center capacity, $29.8 million to upgrade technology, nearly $4.6 million to hire additional adjudication officers and $1.8 million for personnel support.
“Shoring up the Commonwealth’s unemployment insurance trust fund is a smart investment that will prevent Virginia businesses from paying higher taxes and allow our economy to continue surging,” said Governor Northam. “These actions will also propel our modernization efforts forward so the Virginia Employment Commission can better serve those in need of assistance throughout our pandemic recovery and into the future. Together with the General Assembly, we are taking important steps to ensure Virginia remains a place where businesses, workers, and families can all thrive.”
Virginia, like all other states, pays unemployment benefits from its Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which is financed through payroll taxes paid by employers. When higher numbers of workers are laid off and apply for unemployment insurance, taxes on businesses increase based on a formula to help replenish the trust fund. Because these taxes are based, in part, on a company’s history of laying off or reducing staff, the businesses most impacted by pandemic-related workforce reductions face the most significant increases in future unemployment insurance taxes.
“The Commonwealth’s unemployment insurance system has served as a critical lifeline to thousands of out-of-work Virginians over the last year,” said Secretary of Labor Megan Healy. “This continued investment will ensure the long-term viability of the trust fund and allow Virginia businesses to put their limited resources towards hiring workers rather than paying taxes.”
These investments build on the Northam Administration’s ongoing work to implement long-overdue improvements to Virginia’s unemployment insurance system and address rising unemployment tax rates resulting from the pandemic. Governor Northam signed Executive Order Seventy-Four in December 2020, which held businesses harmless for lay-offs that occurred during the pandemic and protected Virginia businesses from having to pay an additional $200 million to restore the depleted Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
Governor Northam and the General Assembly have also worked together to support out-of-work Virginians in need of assistance and speed up the processing of unemployment claims. The special session budget included $210 million to backfill the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, and the 2021 budget dedicated an additional $15 million to increase call center staffing levels and support long-overdue IT system upgrades at the Virginia Employment Commission.
“In May, we made a commitment to prioritize the use of American Rescue Plan funding to support workers and small businesses alike,” said House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. “This plan follows through on that promise by keeping relief funds available for Virginians while simultaneously removing the added burden on businesses, helping them get back on their feet.”
“While Virginia’s unemployment rate has now fallen to half of what it was last summer, the past year’s claims depleted the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund,” said Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw. “Replenishing the trust will help small business and is a necessary and fiscally responsible step forward as we rebuild and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Despite being underfunded for decades, the Commonwealth’s unemployment insurance system successfully distributed $12.9 billion in benefits to more than 1.3 million eligible Virginians between the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and May 2021. Approximately 85 percent of Virginia applicants receive benefits within 21 days of filing an initial claim, making Virginia sixth in the nation—and first in the Mid-Atlantic region—for delivering unemployment insurance to eligible individuals.
In May 2021, Governor Northam issued Executive Directive Sixteen, which directed the Virginia Employment Commission to invest $20 million to add 300 new adjudication staffers, make immediate technology upgrades, and complete a full modernization of the Commonwealth’s unemployment insurance system by October 1, 2021.
“These investments to modernize the Virginia Employment Commission are continued steps towards addressing federal underinvestment in the system,” said Delegate Lamont Bagby, Chair of the Joint Commission on Unemployment Compensation. “We must continue this momentum and work to ensure the Commonwealth has the strongest unemployment insurance system in the nation.”
“I hear every day from Virginians who are struggling to get their benefits,” said Senator Adam Ebbin, Vice-Chair of the Joint Commission on Unemployment Compensation. “This funding to support additional adjudication officers, call centers, and IT modernization will help our system more efficiently and effectively provide unemployed Virginians with the support they deserve.”
Governor Northam and General Assembly leaders released a joint statement in May outlining shared priorities for allocating the $4.3 billion in federal funds available to the Commonwealth from the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The Governor and state legislators previously announced plans to invest $353 million to boost recovery among Virginia’s small businesses and $700 million to expedite the deployment of last-mile broadband infrastructure to unserved areas and close the digital divide within by 2024.
On Monday, Governor Northam kicked off “Investment Week” by announcing that the Commonwealth intends to use $250 million in ARP funds to improve ventilation and air filtration in public schools. Earlier today, Governor Northam announced that Virginia will dedicate $411.5 million to make improvements to aging water systems and improve drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure.
Virginia to receive $384,736.40 from Ford Motor Company
Attorney General Jason Miyares announced that Virginia will receive $384,736.40 from a multistate settlement with Ford Motor Company (“Ford”) to resolve allegations that Ford falsely advertised the real-world fuel economy of the model year 2013–2014 C-Max hybrids and the payload capacity of the model year 2011–2014 Super Duty pickup trucks.
“Virginians should be able to trust car manufacturers’ information as advertised about their vehicles. Ford exaggerated the C-Max hybrids’ fuel efficiency and Super Duty trucks’ payload capacity, misleading Virginia consumers. A key component of my office is protecting Virginia consumers, and I’m pleased we were able to reach a fair agreement with Ford,” said Attorney General Miyares.
The investigation revealed that Ford made several misleading representations about 2013–2014 C-Max hybrids, including:
- Misrepresenting the distance consumers could drive on one tank of gas;
- Marketing that driving style would not impact real-world fuel economy; and
- Claiming superior real-world fuel economy compared to other hybrids.
Additionally, Ford’s deceptive and misleading “Best-in-Class” payload claims on its 2011–2014 Super Duty pick-up trucks, which include the F-250, F-350, and F-450 models, were investigated. Ford:
- Devised a deceptive calculation for payload capacity that omitted standard items (such as the spare wheel, tire and jack, center flow console, and radio);
- Advertised its Super Duty pick-up trucks as having a “Best-in-Class” payload (of 194 pounds) based on that deceptive calculation; and
- Sold Super Duty pick-up trucks to individual consumers that could not meet the “Best-in-Class payload claim.
The settlement ensures that Ford will not make false or misleading advertising claims about any of its vehicles’ fuel economy or payload capacity. It was led by Oregon, Texas, Illinois, Maryland, Vermont, and Arizona and joined by the Attorneys General of 35 other states and jurisdictions.
Virginia Department of Veterans Services to host Memorial Day ceremonies across the Commonwealth on May 30
The Virginia War Memorial will host the 2022 Commonwealth’s Memorial Day Ceremony on Monday, May 30, 2022 at 11 a.m. EDT. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.
The ceremony will be held outdoors in the E. Bruce Heilman Amphitheater on the Memorial grounds, weather permitting. This is the 66th consecutive year that the Virginia War Memorial has conducted this ceremony, which is the annual tribute to all American service members who gave the ultimate sacrifice serving in our Armed Forces.
The keynote speaker for the 2022 Commonwealth’s Memorial Day Ceremony will be Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears. Virginia War Memorial Director Dr. Clay Mountcastle will serve as Master of Ceremonies.
Music will be provided by the US Navy Fleet Forces Command Band and there will be a special tribute to members of Gold Star Families. The ceremony will also be broadcast and livestreamed and feature both live and pre-recorded content including the Commonwealth’s Memorial Day message from Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin.
Veteran service organizations and other groups are invited to participate in the laying of memorial wreaths in the Memorial’s Shrine of Memory – 20th Century.
The Virginia War Memorial will be open extended hours on Memorial Day from 9 a.m. to sunset. The Richmond Cadet Alumni Band and Friends will present a free concert of patriotic music on the Memorial grounds at 2:30 p.m. There is no admission charge for any of these events. Parking is also free but will be limited onsite. Members of the public are advised to arrive no later than 10:45 a.m. to be seated for the ceremony. For more information, please go to www.vawarmemorial.org or www.dvs.virginia.gov.
Those not attending the Commonwealth’s Memorial Day Ceremony in person may tune into the live broadcast, which will air on WTVR-TV CBS6.1 and 6.3 or to the livestream available on facebook.com/VirginiaVeteransServices, .facebook.com/VirginiaWarMemorial, and other social media channels to be announced.
Memorial Day Ceremonies will also be held at Virginia’s three state veterans cemeteries:
- Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Dublin. Ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. EDT. Keynote speaker will be Major General Randal D. Fullhart, (US Air Force, Ret.).
- Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Amelia. Ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m. EDT. The keynote speaker is State Senator Amanda Chase.
- Albert G. Horton, Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk. Ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. EDT. The keynote speaker is Command Sergeant Major Scott A. Beeson, US Army.
Prior to each ceremony, volunteers will place American flags on all gravesites. For information on these ceremonies, please visit www.dvs.virginia.gov.
About the Virginia War Memorial
The mission of the Virginia War Memorial is to Honor Veterans, Preserve History, Educate Youth and Inspire Patriotism in All. Dedicated in 1956, the Memorial includes the names of the nearly 12,000 Virginia heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the Global War on Terrorism. The Virginia War Memorial is and will always be the Commonwealth’s tribute to those who served and most especially, to those who died defending our freedoms.
The Virginia War Memorial is a division of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services and serves as an integral part of its mission in support of all Virginians who have served in our military. It is located at 621 South Belvidere Street, Richmond, Virginia 23220 and is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free, except for select events. For more information, please visit www.vawarmemorial.org.
About Virginia’s State Veterans Cemeteries
The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) operates state veterans cemeteries in Amelia, Dublin, and Suffolk, which provide a final resting place for Veterans, Guardsmen, Reservists, Military Service members who died while serving on active duty, and their eligible dependents. The Virginia Veterans Cemetery is located in Amelia, the Albert G. Horton, Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk, and the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Dublin. All cemeteries accommodate in-ground burial of casketed remains, in-ground inurnment of cremated remains, and above-ground inurnment of cremated remains in a columbarium. For more information, please visit www.dvs.virginia.gov/cemeteries.
About the Virginia Department of Veterans Services
The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) is a state government agency with more than 40 locations across the Commonwealth of Virginia. DVS traces its history to 1928 and the establishment of the Virginia War Service Bureau to assist Virginia’s World War I veterans. Today, DVS assists veterans and their families in filing claims for federal veterans benefits; provides veterans and family members with linkages to services including behavioral healthcare, housing, employment, education and other programs. The agency operates long-term care facilities offering in-patient skilled nursing care, Alzheimer’s/memory care, and short-term rehabilitation for veterans; and provides an honored final resting place for veterans and their families at three state veterans cemeteries. It operates the Virginia War Memorial, the Commonwealth’s tribute to Virginia’s men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice from World War II to the present. For more information, please visit www.dvs.virginia.gov.
The Wildlife Center of Virginia “Shell-Abrates” World Turtle Day
Every May, the Center releases a number of Woodland Box Turtles that have been recovering over winter back into the wild. This release happens to coincide with World Turtle Day on May 23. To celebrate the occasion, Center educators will host a live-streaming virtual discussion with Certified Master Herpetologist Ana Sparks. Event watchers will learn about the natural history of Virginia’s native turtles, the challenges they are facing in wild, and the conservation measures taken to protect them. Wilson, one of the Center’s non-releasable Woodland Box Turtles, will also make an appearance during the program. The stream will take place on the Wildlife Center’s Facebook page on May 23 at 2:00 pm.
Wildlife enthusiasts can learn more about Virginia’s turtles in other ways, too. S1:E3 of Untamed: Life is Wild, an award-winning television series co-produced by the Wildlife Center of Virginia and VPM, features discussions on the causes of admission for turtles, including vehicle collisions, and swallowing fish hooks, pesticides, and more. The Center’s hospital director describes how these injuries are treated, and host Ed Clark reviews how humans can change their behavior to help turtles. Each episode of Untamed is available to watch online for free via wildlifecenter.org/untamed.
However you celebrate World Turtle Day, remember these tips to help turtles year-round:
- Assist turtles crossing the road by carrying them across in the direction they’re headed. Many turtles crossing roads are egg-laden females looking for appropriate nesting sites.
- Do NOT relocate a turtle to a “better place.” Turtles have small home territories and should be left where they are found. Their survivability depends on it!
- Don’t ever keep a wild turtle as a pet. If you truly desire a pet reptile and can make all of the commitments necessary to keeping a healthy, happy herp, please look into adopting. Captive-bred reptiles or rescued turtles are available for adoption in the state of Virginia through several different organizations, such as Blue Ridge Reptile Rescue.
- Watch out for turtles and other wildlife when mowing lawns and doing other yard work.
- If you find an injured turtle, put it in a box and contact the Wildlife Center of Virginia or a permitted wildlife rehabilitator. Make sure to record details of the rescue location so that the turtle can be returned there once it has healed.
Governor Glenn Youngkin announces the restoration of rights for thousands of Virginians
Governor Glenn Youngkin announced on May 20, 2022, that civil rights have been restored to 3,496 Virginians. The consideration for restoration of rights is coordinated by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the Department of Corrections, with thorough consideration by the Department of Elections, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, and the Compensation Board.
“I am encouraged that over 3,400 Virginians will take this critical first step towards vibrant futures as citizens with full civil rights,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “Individuals with their rights restored come from every walk of life and are eager to provide for themselves and their families and put the past behind them for a better tomorrow.”
“The restoration of rights process provides a fresh step forward for individuals who have made mistakes but have done their duty to our community and wish to be full and productive citizens of our Commonwealth,” said Secretary Kay Coles James. “I look forward to their successful futures.”
The administration will be restoring rights on an ongoing basis. Individuals looking to have rights restored and meet the criteria should visit www.restore.virginia.gov. Applicants waiting for rights to be restored may check the status of an application online.
Governor Glenn Youngkin announces the Commonwealth’s April unemployment rate unchanged from March at three percent
RICHMOND, VA – On May 20, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced Virginia’s unemployment rate held steady at 3 percent in April, while total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 13,600 jobs. The Commonwealth’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3 percent is 1.3 percentage points below the rate from a year ago. The labor force increased by 18,281 to 4,329,907, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 1,324 to 129,771. The number of employed residents rose by 19,605 to 4,200,136.
According to BLS household survey data, Virginia’s labor force expanded to over 4.3 million workers in April 2022. Since February of this year, the labor force grew by over 52,000. The average monthly growth in the size of the labor force from February through April of 2022 was 17,352, while the 2021 average was -1,653. Labor force growth March’s labor force growth was the second-largest monthly increase while April’s was the third-largest going back to 1976.
The Commonwealth’s labor force participation rate rose by 0.2 of a percentage point to 63.5 percent in April. The labor force participation rate measures the proportion of the civilian population age 16 and older that is employed or actively looking for work.
“We have more than 60,000 Virginians working today than when I took office,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “Our state continues to add jobs month after month as we expand opportunities for businesses and families in every corner of the Commonwealth. There’s more work to be done, Virginia is still thousands of jobs short of pre-pandemic levels. Our mission remains clear, continue making Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family.”
“The number of employed residents has risen a total of nearly 62,000 and by an average of 20,500 during February, March, and April in 2022, compared to averaging under 5,000 a month in 2021,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick. “Also, the labor force participation rate rose to 63.5 percent — nearly a full percentage point higher than at the end of 2021. This is an indication that many Virginians are getting off the sidelines and back into the game.”
“The unemployment rate has not risen in two years and is a third lower than a year ago,” said Secretary of Labor Bryan Slater. “While the unemployment rate can sometimes go down even when jobs are lost, VEC data for April showed total employment went up while unemployment went down. These trends indicate that Virginia’s recovery from the most recent recession is moving forward.”
Virginia payroll employment increased by 13,600 to 4,037,800 in April. From April 2021 to April 2022, the VEC estimates that establishments in Virginia gained 124,500 jobs, an increase of 3.2 percent. In April, the private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 115,700 jobs, while employment in the public sector gained 8,800 jobs.
Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, nine of eleven major industry divisions experienced employment increases while two saw employment decreases. The largest over-the-year job gain occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 62,400 jobs (+18.4%). The second-largest over-the-year job gain occurred in professional and business services, with up to 18,600 jobs (+2.4%). The next largest over-the-year job gain occurred in education and health services, with up to 18,000 jobs (+3.4%). Other job gains occurred in trade and transportation (+11,200 jobs), government (+8,800 jobs), miscellaneous (+6,400 jobs), information (+2,300 jobs), construction (+300 jobs), and mining (+200 jobs). Within government, local (+2,500 jobs) and state government (+700 jobs) both gained jobs over the year while the federal government saw a decrease in employment (-700 jobs). The largest job loss during April occurred in finance (-2,700 jobs) to 207,500. The second-largest decrease occurred in manufacturing with a decrease of 1,000 jobs to 235,900.
For more details, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at vec.virginia.gov.
Port of Virginia secures all necessary federal investment for making Virginia the US east coast’s deepest port
The Port of Virginia® and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today, May 20, 2022, signed the agreement committing the federal government to begin its financial investment in the construction effort to widen and deepen the commercial shipping channels and Norfolk Harbor. Close collaboration with Army Corps has the project on schedule for completion in 2024.
With a group of federal and state officials in attendance, Virginia Port Authority CEO Stephen A. Edwards and Col. Brian P. Hallberg, the US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District commander, signed the Project Partnership Agreement. The document formally commits the port and the Army Corps to collaborate to deliver the Norfolk Harbor widening and deepening project. Further, it allows the Army Corps to use federal funding to award its first construction contract on the project.
“The importance of this moment in the evolution of The Port of Virginia cannot be overstated,” Edwards said. “This is a modern, 21st-century port, and when you couple our land-based assets and capabilities with the deepest and widest channels — and safest harbor — on the entire U.S. East Coast, you have a recipe for success here for decades to come.
“We absolutely would not be here today if it weren’t for the perseverance of our elected leaders at the federal and state levels, the US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District office, and the Virginia Maritime Association. Everyone played a critical role in this project, and it is important to thank them for their support and effort. The Virginia Legislature funded the entire project cost up-front with the understanding that the federal government would share half the cost. Today, we welcome the federal government representatives who are here to finalize that commitment,” Edwards added.
The signing ceremony was attended by US Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Shalanda D. Young, director of the US Office of Management and Budget, US Reps Elaine Luria (D-VA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), Jamie A. Pinkham, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Virginia Transportation Secretary W. Shepphard “Shep” Miller III, Virginia Sen. Louise Lucas, and Virginia Del. Robert Bloxom Jr.
The commercial shipping channels from the Atlantic Ocean and into the harbor are being deepened to at least 55-feet and made wide enough to safely accommodate two-way traffic of ultra-large container ships. These features put the port ahead of its East Coast peers and in a unique position to attract more cargo and increase efficiency at its terminals. Edwards said the biggest ships afloat will be able safely sail to-and-from the port fully laden with containers. And, he said, the wider channels and two-way ship traffic means greater use of the port’s vessel berths.
“The benefits of this project are unparalleled anywhere on the US East Coast,” Edwards said.
The final installment of the federal investment, $72 million, included the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The federal government and the port agreed to a 50-50 cost share of the project at its outset in 2015 when the Army Corps began evaluating the economic value of a deeper and wider Norfolk Harbor and commercial shipping channel. The dredging work began in December 2019, nearly two-and-a-half years ahead of schedule.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law continues to deliver for Hampton Roads, Luria said. “I was proud to join my colleagues in securing an additional investment of more than $69 million in the port to expand economic opportunities for Coastal Virginia, the Commonwealth, and the country. This agreement today will strengthen the public-private partnership that supports the Port of Virginia and ensures that the Port remains a vital economic engine.”
“This historic investment through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will allow more goods to move faster through the port, drive significant new economic opportunities to Norfolk, and help bring down costs for families across Virginia and the country,” said OMB Director Young. “This [investment] is in addition to the $150 million the Biden-Harris Administration is providing to protect families and businesses in Norfolk and across the region from the impacts of climate change by building floodwalls, storm surge barriers, levees, and other flood-control measures. I want to thank Senator Warner, Representative Scott, and Representative Luria for their partnership in securing these federal investments to keep this community safe.”
While the project will help drive the port’s cargo volumes, the dredge work contains an important and useful byproduct: dredge material that will benefit regional beaches.
“Over the course of the project, we’ll dredge a large volume of sands – millions of cubic yards,” said Keith Lockwood, Norfolk District Water Resources Division chief. “The US Army Corps of Engineers and Virginia Port Authority are collaborating with the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach to maximize the beneficial use of this dredged sand by placing it along beaches for additional coastal protection.”
(The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VPA owns and, through its private operating subsidiary, Virginia International Terminals, LLC (VIT), operates four general cargo facilities Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal, and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County. The VPA leases Virginia International Gateway and Richmond Marine Terminal. A recent economic impact study from The College of William and Mary shows that The Port of Virginia helps to create about 437,000 jobs and generated nearly $100 billion in total economic impact throughout the Commonwealth on an annual basis.)